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By Alyssa Benjamin

Try these tips from Jacqui Bennett, the tailor for our photo shoots, and say good- bye to balled-up threads, visible knots and loose ends.

  • 1. Where to position a button within a buttonhole:
    If you've lost a button and need to replace it, finding the right spot can be tricky. If there's no marking from the previous button, here's what to do. First lay your garment flat and button all the remaining buttons. You'll want to position the buttons differently, depending on the type of buttonhole. If the buttonhole is vertical, the button goes in the center. If it is horizontal, the button should be positioned at the edge of the hole. Why? When you button a jacket, the button won't stay in the center; it will "slide" to the edge of the hole. Tip: To mark the spot for your button, use a pencil (a tailor's pencil is preferred). When you sew on the button, you'll hide the mark.
  • 2. Knotting the thread:
    Thread the needle, then knot both ends together. For extra strength in the case of a coat, make a double knot by sliding a second loop right over the first knot. Tighten so that both knots become one neat unit. Clip the excess tail threads.
  • 3. Prime your thread:
    Before you start sewing, it's best to wet the entire thread with saliva. This helps prevent the thread from twisting and balling up.

  • 4. Before sewing, secure your thread:
    The base of a button should start with a knot. With your needle, take a small bit of fabric where you made the pencil dot. Pull to the end of the thread. Then make a knot by forming a loop and passing your needle through. Pull tight. This makes your starting point strong.

  • 5. Attaching the button:
    Decide whether you would like to have any thread visible on the inside of the garment or not. If not, only sew through the top layer of fabric. If added strength is needed (in the case of a coat or really fragile chiffon), then sewing through both layers is preferred. Pass the needle through the first hole of the button, letting the button slide down the thread until it stops a bit above the surface of the fabric. Keep a little bit of space between the button and the fabric to use for a shank*. A shank provides a little stem that the button sits on, allowing for room under the button when you close the garment. The shank space ends up giving strength and mobility to the button.

  • 6. Wrapping the shank:
    Now, pass the needle through the second hole of the button, going into the fabric and back up, landing directly under the first hole. Thread the needle through the first hole again and back down into the second hole through the fabric. Repeat four to eight times. Try to do this all in one motion and keep the shank space consistent. When it's time to wrap the shank, it's a good idea to knot the thread as you go: loop the thread around and pass the needle through. Tighten, then repeat. Wrap and knot three times for cotton shirts and eight times for coats.

  • 7. The final knot:
    To finish, pass the needle through the fabric at the base of the shank, taking a small bit of fabric to form a loop. Thread the needle through the loop to knot. Go back into the fabric at the base of the shank, come out the other side, and clip the end.

  • 8. That's it! You're done:
    No loose thread, a completely clean finish.

    *Shank: The shank is the stem of thread between the button and the garment. Creating a shank is a more elegant way of sewing a button. A longer shank is typical on a coat, but a small shank is nice on a cotton shirt.
Learn more Needle Know-How

  • Needle Size: Generally medium-sized needles with a larger eye (opening)
    are easier to thread. For coats, use a larger needle. For finer silks, use a
    finer-sized needle.

  • Coats: For heavy coats, thread the needle so that you are sewing with six
    strands of thread.

  • Leather: Use a leather hand-sewing needle. It has a little blade on it.

  • Chiffon: When working with chiffon or fragile fabric, a little hole is made
    every time you pass through the fabric, which can eventually stretch to
    form a larger hole. Leather tends to perforate and chiffon shreds. In both
    cases, try to pass the needle slightly next to each hole instead of going
    through the exact same spot.

  • Scissors: Gingher is a reliable, classic, and well-made brand. They also
    have a sharpening service. Mail in your scissors and they will sharpen
    them for $12: